Reimagined from Reality: Esther

TW: Rape & Sexual Assault

Find out about this blog series – Reimagined from Reality – in the Introduction post and the Finding the Story post.

The first character in this series in one we all know and love: Esther. The main character. The title character. She’s pretty important.

My reimagining of this character took me on a lot of twists and turns as I strove for her to be relatable, and to make her experience authentic to the original story (but still embellishing the sotry with my own flare). After reading and researching Esther, there were three big roadblocks that I felt embodied her story, that she had to conquer in order to face the king at the very end: Fear of Man, Satefy is the top priority, and Guilt and Regret.

I summed all of this up into one sentence, her lie: “in order to protect myself from danger, I must obey without question those in power over me.”

Want to know how I got there?

Here’s what we know about Esther, and how I reimagined those facts into my protagonist, Roxana Fairwing:

  • Esther was a young teenager. We don’t know her exact age for certain (fourteen is the speculated age), but she was young enough to not be married and to still be reliant on her uncle. [1] (Esther 2:7)
    • Roxana is eighteen. While she is likely older than Esther was, to a modern audience she is in a relative stage of life – done with education and ready to be married off, but still under her uncle’s authority.
      • Xerxes was at least 40, and he is nearly as old in my retelling. There would no doubt have been an inherient fear of him, not only because of his age, but also because of his reputation as a warlord. (more on that in the post on Xerxes…)
    • Roxana being single but of a marriable age gave inspiration to the character of “Omid Skyburrow”, her crush before she is taken to the palace. What eighteen-year-old girl doesn’t want a boy she fancies? So that felt like a realistic and relatable choice. And it adds some delicious and terrible tension to the story.
  • Esther was an orphan, raised by her uncle. We don’t know for certain what happened to her parents. (Esther 2:7)
    • Roxana is an orphan, raised by her uncle. Her parents caught an illness and passed shortly after Roxana was born, leaving her in that care of her uncle, to be brought up in his way of thinking.
  • Esther had two names: Esther & Hadassah. There are speculations as to why she had two names, that either she just had two names, or that she was given a second name to conceal her heritage. (Esther 2:7)
    • Roxana sticks with the one name throughout, although she keeps her surname a secret to hide her relationship with her uncle, who works in the palace.
  • Esther hid her heritage as a Jew for years in obedience to her uncle. This would have meant not only not acting like a Jew, but also doing things that went against God’s commands (such as dietary commands). [3] (Esther 2:10)
    • Roxana hides her heritage as a fairy as a promise to her uncle, including negletting to fulfill the fairy traditions and not associating with the other fairies in the harem. She is told to do this for her protection, but her uncle also believes it will help her chances at being chosen as queen.
      • This entire verse is such a huge foundation for Roxana’s lie. (When we dig into Mordecai, you’ll see why…)
  • Esther found favor with everyone, including the eunuch in charge of the harem. (Esther 2:9 & 15)
    • Roxana’s ability to read minds allows her support and encourage the other virgins, quietly in her own way, and gains her respect from Chozen (in charge of the harem), Chary (palace stylist), and Clement (palace servant).
  • Esther asks for advice about what to wear when she is sent to the king. (Esther 2:15)
    • Roxana asks for advice from Chozen about how to act when she is sent to the king, as well as asking for Chary to decide for her what she should wear.
  • Esther was a victim of sexual assault. [4] (Esther 2:14)
    • This is a biggie. Esther didn’t go to the king to have dinner or a conversation. It wasn’t a date. It was a sexual interview, a “test drive” before the purchase. Xerxes chose his queen from these sexual encounters.
    • Roxana is raped when she is sent to the king (although it is a fade to black and nothing explicit is described). There is no room to reject the king and there is equally not a shred of consent or willingness on Roxana’s behalf. But that doesn’t matter to the king.
      • This is foundational for their entire relationship and the anxiety that Roxana carries for the remainder of the story.
    • I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: This is not a love story between Esther and Xerxes.
  • Esther was the most *loved* and favored by Xerxes out of all the virgins; *aheb*, the Hebrew word for “strong attachment or erotic desire”. [2] (Esther 2:17)
    • Roxana gains the king’s favor because of her supernatural gift to read minds, which makes her stand out from the others. This allows her to be used by the king, to feel like a posession, but free her from being solely of sexual use to the king in the story.
    • Roxana is fully aware that she is “loved” with a selfish love by the king, and since the previous queen could not avoid his wrath, she fears that her place within his favor is fickle at best. This also paves the way for later on in the story, giving her very real reasons to fear that the king will execute her if she steps out of line.

And I have to stop there or we are going to start giving away some spoilers! But you get an idea of how I broke-down Esther’s character throughout the book to recreate her for a fresh look at the story. We’ll find out more about her no doubt as we dig into the other characters in this story.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Find out anything you didn’t know or haven’t considered before?

Next week we dive into Xerxes…


[0] The Book of Esther
[1] Esther
[2] Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Desire, Love, & Romance in the Hebrew Bible
[3] Why Did Esther Hide Her Jewish Identity? Part1 Part 2 by Rabbi Chaim Jachter
[4] Jews for Jesus: Five Things About Esther That Nobody Talks About
[5] Rachel Held Evans: Esther Actually 4-part series

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